Diversity of India missing in advertising: ASCI-UA report

The report noted that less than 1% of the ads featured members of the LGBTQI community or people with disabilities. About 4% of the ads featured older people above 65 years of age

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Delhi: Analysis of Indian ads by Kantar's Evaluation Framework indicated a steady increase in female representation in ads, with 45% of commercials featuring women alone, surpassing the global average of 25%. Within the depiction of men and women, women characters are more stereotyped and shown as fair and lean versus men. Portrayal of women is also anchored to care-giving and that of men to authority.

The report noted that less than 1% of the ads featured members of the LGBTQI community or people with disabilities.  About 4% of the ads featured older people above 65 years of age.

In contrast to many other markets, India is a distance away in terms of celebrating the inherent diversity in its ethnicity and skin colour. Only 3% of Indian ads had representation from ethnic groups vs. the global average of 19%, and only 4% showed diversity of skin tone vs. the global average of 27%.

These findings are part of an updated report titled "Mainstreaming Diversity and Inclusiveness in Indian Advertising" by The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and the UN Women Convened Unstereotype Alliance (UA). Developed in partnership with Kantar, a global leader in brand research, this comprehensive study delves into the realm of diversity and inclusion (D&I) within Indian advertising, shedding light on evolving trends, challenges, and opportunities.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI, said, “Progressive advertising works better for society and brands. Ads that are stuck in stereotypical depictions are missing a trick in connecting with India’s diverse consumer base.” 

Soumya Mohanty, MD and CCO- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, said, “We are proud to partner with ASCI and the Unstereotype Alliance in shedding light on the evolving landscape of diversity and inclusion in Indian advertising. Through our research and insights, we aim to drive a more inclusive and representative industry that resonates with diverse audiences."

The study scrutinised over 261 ads in 13 languages, and mapped them on 8 dimensions of Age, Gender, Sexual orientation, Race/ethnicity, Physical appearance, Social class, Disabilities, and Religion. It noted that Indian ads are doing well on the gender dimension, but are weak on other aspects.

The report stated that there is a positive trend in the representation of women, although the quality of representation still has some catching up to do.

Additionally, the study uses the Progressive Unstereotype Metric (PUM) to measure consumer responses to representation in advertising. PUM measures consumers' responses as to whether the way people are presented in the ad represents a modern and progressive view of society. Global studies have shown that positive PUM results in higher brand affinity and intent to purchase.  

Susan Ferguson, Country Representative, UN Women India, said, “As conveners of the Unstereotype Alliance India National Chapter, we are dedicated to fostering inclusivity within the advertising landscape. Over the past two years, our alliance has brought together brands, organisations, and individuals committed to leveraging advertising and media to drive a cultural shift towards diversity and inclusion. We are proud of our collective efforts to dismantle stereotypes and champion a more inclusive advertising industry.”